ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- It wasn't the prettiest game for Michigan and certainly wasn't the performance the Wolverines wanted after demolishing Wisconsin on Sunday.
The Wolverines will take it, though, after a 66-64 overtime win over Northwestern on Wednesday night.
"It got away from us in the first half," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "And we executed in the second half. Our defense bailed out the rotten shooting that we had and our point guard did a great job."
Trey Burke was critical to the win
The freshman point guard has shown a lot of moxie this season, but he carried the Wolverines in overtime, scoring eight of their 12 points -- including six free throws in the final 1:05. Every game he plays, he inches closer to becoming Michigan’s best -- and most clutch -- player. He finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while often being the shortest player on the floor. All season long, his teammates have been talking about his maturity beyond his years. That showed against Northwestern on Wednesday.
By now, though, Michigan is prepared for anything Burke can do.
"I wasn't worried," senior guard Zack Novak said. "That guy at the line, with the ball in his hands to make a play, I'm comfortable."
With good reason. While Tim Hardaway Jr. carried Michigan in the first half, scoring 14 of his 19 points, Burke made plays when it counted.
Michigan’s defense was an issue early but showed up late
A game after Michigan had one of its best defensive performances in Beilein’s five seasons on Sunday against Wisconsin, the Wolverines fell apart defensively on Wednesday against Northwestern. They lost shooters on switches, were beaten often on ball screens and struggled with the Wildcats’ penetration. In the first half, Northwestern shot 14-of-23 (60.9 percent) and 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Plus, Novak was out the majority of the first half with two fouls.
"They were getting some pretty easy looks," senior guard Stu Douglass said. "Easy 3s. They started with Shurna at the five and we hadn't practiced that at all."
Michigan, though, forced two shot-clock violations in the second half, including one with the score tied, 54-54, and a little over two minutes remaining. The Wolverines also had really good help defense on Northwestern’s second-to-last possession, coming over to the right block to help deny a fadeaway jumper. It also played very good help defense on Shurna, who led all scorers with 21 points, holding him to nine points in the second half and overtime.
Michigan honored its football team, which beat Virginia Tech, 23-20, in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 3, during the first half to a standing ovation. During halftime, quarterback Denard Robinson led the Michigan pep band in "‘The Victors." Robinson then stuck around, joined the Michigan student section in the second half and played the role of regular student through the end of the game. ... Douglass went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line, giving him 17 free throws made this season. That is more than the amount of free throws he attempted last season (13). ... The Wolverines greatly shortened their bench in the second half, playing only six players -- the five starters and Douglass -- after going eight deep in the first half. ... After the game, Beilein was on his team to get ice and rehab. Quote of the night from Beilein: "This is not your grandfather's Northwestern. This is a really good team."